Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

Title: The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Distributor: Lionsgate
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson
Excellence: 2 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A mediocre "dystopian future"-themed film that features the disturbing spectacle of children killing each other in gladiatorial-style games, which neverthless touched something in the young-adult crowd, becoming a box-office smash with several sequels

I went to see this film in the theatre solely as social research and to see what all the fuss was about. A film that grosses $150 million in its opening weekend must have some special appeal. I went in with low expectations -- living under a rock as I do, I was largely ignorant of the whole Hunger Games phenomenon. I knew nothing of the plot save the vaguest idea of the concept. It wasn't terrible, but I'm glad I went on "Cheap Tuesday".

So the basic plot is, per Internet Movie Database:

In a dystopian future, the totalitarian nation of Panem is divided between 12 districts and the Capitol. Each year two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal retribution for a past rebellion, the televised games are broadcast throughout Panem. The 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors while the citizens of Panem are required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. 

There really isn't much more to it than that. After the intial heroic act of volunteering to take her sister's place, the rest of the film is just a bunch of action sequences as Katniss tries to stay alive (with the mandatory shaky hand-held camera preventing the viewer from seeing much of it). Rather ho-hum I thought on the whole, although there were some things that were quite good.

I thought the Running Man-esque critique of modern media and the voyeurism of reality shows was quite well done. Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the host of The Hunger Games was perfect. The "look" of the film, the art direction, etc., something that I pay close attention to was very well done also. The violence was treated decently insofar as it conveyed some of the horror inherent in children killing each other, without being too graphic.

But those good things do not add up to a good film. I thought that many aspects were highly problematic, and the biggest is that this is a truly post-Christian film in that the main protagonist has not a shred of Christian virtue -- and nor does anyone else. As I said, after the first self-sacrificing move for her sister, it's all self preservation and this really perverts what could have been a dark, yet powerful indictment of modern society. This unChristian ethical void leads of other things like the pagan glorification of suicide at the end of the film. I am NOT a fan of the "Xena Warrior Princess" politically correct gender-bending pugilism -- and therefore did not enjoy the concept of Katniss, a 16-year-old girl, who is capable of defeating all comers in hand-to-hand combat. It's not only horribly cliché and overused in sci fi especially, it's also just plain wrong. Wrong in that women in general aren't just as good at fighting as men, and from a Christian perspective the idea of women fighting is repulsive.  Even the Romans found the spectacle of gladiatrices intolerable and reformed them out of existence after Nero. The whole "adults = evil, children = good" trope (as exemplified by the fact that all the adult characters were either evil or useless, save, interestingly, Katniss' fashion consultant) so common in modern-day literature is really tiring and insidious.

Which leads me to why I think this film franchise is/was so popular. There is a strong theme of abandonment by parents/adults/society in the film that I think really resonates with today's youth.  So I can see why they have consumed this film in large numbers. But for my money, I do not recommend anyone rush out to see it except maybe as a way of gaining some insight into today's young adults?



By Godfrey Blackwell

It was on his wedding day that Serveus Kunar finally became a complete man, but not at the nuptials themselves. It was afterwards, as he stepped from the cool darkness of the temple into the embracing warmth of the sun-bathed narthex and wedding guests cheered the new couple's debut that he took the fateful step.

He was a young nobleman of perfect proportions, strong of face, fit of body. His skin, however, tanned a light brown, was not the product of toil but of vacations in the family villa on the southern continent. On his right arm came his bride, Zia, radiant in a golden dress that flashed in the sunlight; the pride of Vitria and now his. Behind the crowd, a line of soldiers approached down the main road, black-clad magisterial acolytes at the fore bearing dark, flapping banners.

The soft pink pedals of the Lycinia trees, falling in the cool spring breeze, were ripped away as a low-flying shuttle tore through the air. In the unsettling quiet that followed in its wake, Serveus was keenly aware of his brideís tiny, cold fingers gripping his arm. 

"Young sir," a voice called. Serveus looked down to see that an armoured man, about his fatherís age, had pushed through the wedding reception and was mounting the stairs. He wore an antique blaster inlaid with gold at his side, and a grey moustache twisted to stilletto points protruded outside his helmet. "Will you help us? The Anaketh landed a war host in Gallennon last night and will not rest there long."

The icy hand of fear grabbed Serveus' spine, but he fought it off with anger; how dare they conscript him on today, of all days? He considered a biting riposte to the demand, but Zia's tongue was quicker. 
"Would you take my husband away from me, on my very wedding night?"
"I would not take him, madame," the old soldier said. "But I would ask his aid -- and yours in giving him up -- in the defence of our home and Empire."
"He has duties to his wife, now," Serveus' father barked, pushing the young groom aside.

Serveus clapped his free hand on his fatherís shoulder and addressed the soldier. "Centurion -- as I guess that's what you are -- your men make a pretty parade to help me celebrate my matrimony, but I don't see the Imperial standard. Your force is not sanctioned by the proprætor." 

The scarred veteran lowered his eyes to the white flagstones. "With all the respect due our honourable proprætor, I must say his belief that the Anaketh are not enemies was proved wrong by the skies last night."
Serveus had seen that proof as he had paced throughout the night, unable to sleep, agonising over the wedding day. He glanced about quickly; he would never admit to anyone that he had been nervous, even fearful of his betrothed; an alluring and demanding woman. No, they couldnít know ... yet he had seen the twinkling amidst the night stars as ships had given up the ghost in bursts of light and lasers had scorched the upper atmosphere.

"What is that to me?"

"That's right, this is not your fight, son," his father nodded.

"A good question, young sir," the captain said. "It is a decision about who you are. Are you a man to give up without a fight, or one to struggle manfully when victory's not assured? A man of recreation or duty?"

To march a long, tiring path, then fight the vicious chelonian Anaketh, or recline at the well-adorned table his father had set for him and then to a well-deserved life practicing law in peace?

"I am no coward ..."
"You fanatics and your warmongering!" his father shouted, striking the marble parapet. "You will sacrifice these men in a hopeless cause! We cannot stand against the Anaketh; we should surrender and join them. They will be merciful. The Emperor will understand; God will understand. We don't have enough soldiers; there's hardly a quæstor these days to lead!"
"Can't stand, or won't?" Zia suddenly burst forth. Her eyes glistened like diamonds in the hot, bluish sun and her cheeks seemed cut of marble.

"Zia, I thought you ..." Serveus hesitated.

"The choice is yours, husband. I cannot make it for you." She bit her lip and said no more, but those hard, tear-encased eyes told him that she would die before signing a protection pact with an Anaketh master.
He looked over at his father. Unlike the centurion, a comfortable belly hung over his belt, beside which hung the sword that Serveus knew had never been drawn. He himself had tried once, years ago. Its hilt and scabbard were glistening and spotless, but the blade would not budge, rusted in place.
Could he not stand? Would he not? He looked out at the crowd, seeing in it the expectant faces of many young men. Serveusí family was prominent; many of them would follow his lead. He pulled his wife to him and kissed her gently on the forehead. Her dark eyelids fluttered down, brushing her cheeks like damp raven feathers as she acknowledged his choice.
"I will help you, Centurion." Shifting his gaze to the wedding guests, he added, "Which of you heroes is with me?"

The answering cheer drowned out Serveusí fatherís last protestation. He embraced Zia one last time, then followed the centurion down the steps.



Léon Degrelle, the Inspiration for Tintin?

The Adventures of Tintin comics are a staple around the Blackwell household, universally loved by all clan members. Some years ago, Catholic World News ran an article quoting the newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on the topic of the forthcoming Steven Spielberg movie "The Adventures Tintin", describing the title character as “a knight without a stain”. Although the young journalist-hero is not overtly religious (in either the comics or said film), L’Osservatore quoted at length from a French critic who sees Tintin as an examplar of Catholic virtues. 

This "French critic" may be onto something since the inspiration for Tintin was the Catholic politician Léon Degrelle. Although Tintin is not a politician or soldier, I believe he is based on Degrelle during his years as a journalist-adventurer most notably covering the Cristero War in Mexico. Hergé, the creator of the comic-book character met and befriended Degrelle in Belgium in the 1930s during the latter's political crusading days.

Degrelle himself
supported my theory in his memoirs (which can be downloaded here: http://www.jailingopinions.com/tintin.pdf (in French)).

Hergé subsequently denied that he based Tintin on Degrelle, maybe due to the fact that Degrelle was villainised as a "collaborator" after WWII. Degrelle had, after all, volunteered to fight against the Bolsheviks in first the Wehrmacht then the SS on the Eastern Front. That's a whole can of worms that I'm not going to get into right now. But in further support of my belief that Tintin really was based on Léon Degrelle the similarities in appearance are rather striking ...

The similarities to the CGI version of Tintin in Spielberg's rendition seems even more striking to the photos of Degrelle:


Blast from the Past: Primus' First Sci Fi Work

Way back in 2012, young Albert Blackwell submitted a piece of Star Wars themed art work into the all-grades art show at his school. Naturally, being the good son that he is, he chose to draw one of the all-time classic opening scenes in film. We thought it would be fun to look back at that early work from he who now gives you the Time Lizard and Prowess and Loyalty series.

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